Donald Emmerson

Director, Southeast Asia Forum Stanford University

Constructed regionalism may impede the autonomous regionalisation in ASEAN

The distinction I want to make is a critical one between regionalization and regionalism. They’re not the same thing, they’re very different. I think a thought experiment is quite constructive here, namely imagine ASEAN had never existed and that there were no such thing as an AFTA, or an AEC in prospect. Then the question becomes: what would the state of economic transactions in this part of the world be? Would we have a feudal situation, in which nation states would have erected massive barriers? Or would there be entrepreneurs? There have always been entrepreneurs in Asia who would have gone about with rather venal motives, rather daily quotidian kind of non-philosophical motives; to try to make money. And what would the consequence of that have been. And to what extent has the effort to construct regionalism in Southeast Asia impeded the autonomous process of regionalization that involves the decision of millions of entrepreneurs made without regard to what a foreign minister or a minister of trade might think, wish, and want. I think that’s sort of a humbling question you have to keep in mind.

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